Monday, January 28, 2013

The Scarlet D

Liz and I noticed something unique at our wedding: Neither our parents nor grandparents experienced divorce. The Scarlet D did not sully our family tree. In a day and age when half of marriages dissolve, I counted this observation a good omen.

Divorce was not an option for me and Liz. Not in the genes. Not in the bylaws. Not in the fine print. Never.

Up until our wedding day, people tried to dissuade us. They spoke as if marriage was the most grueling commitment they ever made. "Are you sure?" they asked. "Are you ready?" they wondered. We were. So we marched up the aisle: Liz in her bare feet and I in rented dress shoes from Male Fashions.

And I can happily (ever after) say, we've kept true to our promises. Before God, family, and friends, I am for her, she is for me. Till death do we part.

Not all stories end so happily, though. Last week my brother and his wife told their kids they were getting a divorce. Today I received an email from a man in my church who has finally tired of reconciliation. He used the D-word. And every week I scan the legal page in the paper like a gossip glutton, trying to find names I recognize on the marriage dissolution list.

The casualties of divorce abound:
Grandmothers and grandfathers
Aunts and uncles
Minors and children
Christmas traditions
Family vacations
Broken Husbands
Battered Wives

The excuses never run dry:

We've fallen out of love.
We've grown apart.
We're just not happy.
She hurts me.
He's abusive.
We considered staying together for the kids, but we think we make joint custody work.
She cheated.
He's never around.
And so on and so forth.

Perhaps to Enlightened (and dissatisfied) Americans, Jesus' marriage ethic seems archaic. Except for the reason of unfaithfulness, Jesus said, divorce is not an option (Matthew 5:31-32). The allowance for divorce in Jesus' day was predicated on Moses' teaching in Deuteronomy 24. God provided a loophole to protect women from being cast aside like soiled underwear. In another setting, Jesus clarified the divorce clause came because of the hardness of human hearts (Matthew 19:1-9).

Some Rabbis in Jesus' day tried to stretch the "unfaithfulness" exception to include burning toast and folding laundry the wrong way. Their excuses sound like ours. They, too, missed the point.

The exception emphasizes the rule: Marriage is sacred, God-ordained. We should fight for it.

Reflections on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (3rd in the series of 6 antitheses)


Marc Goodwin said...

Have you read The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller? Good stuff that helps remind us of why to press on in our marriage vows.

Sprained Ankle said...

Haven't read it, but I typically enjoy Keller's work.

Sprained Ankle said...

My friend @DaveJLester tweeted "What about abandonment (1 Cor. 7) or abuse of child and/or spouse?" I avoided 1 Corinthians because I'm reflecting on the Sermon on the Mount, not the door Paul seemed to open later. And Jesus allows one reason and Paul another, what keeps me from adding a third? There might be ten plausible reasons. But I stress my main argument: The exceptions prove the rule--marriage is holy; we should fight for it.